Saturday, May 7, 2011

Album Review: "The Natural" - Mic Geronimo (1995)

INTRODUCTION

I'm going to be honest: I really don't know much about Mic Geronimo, so I am not going to pretend that I do. All I know is that he was associated with Murder Inc.'s Irv Gotti, who met Mic at a talent show at a Queens high school. Gotti was so impressed with Mic that he instantly collaborated with him, recording the single "Shit's Real." After said single hit the industry, Mic Geronimo landed a record deal with TVT Records.

This set the stage for Mic's debut album, The Natural, probably one of the most overlooked hip-hop records of the 90s; seriously. Featuring production from the likes of Buckwild, Da Beatminerz, and Irv Gotti himself, The Natural possesses a dark, Boot Camp Clik-esque feel that Mic was clearly suited for.

It's also worth noting that Mic Geronimo sounds a lot like Prodigy of Mobb Deep, both in terms of his voice and his delivery, and that quality made Mic that much more interesting and entertaining to me as an artist, especially considering that The Natural was released the same year as The Infamous.

Mic's grimy style blended in seamlessly with the hip-hop landscape of the mid 90s, as groups such as the Wu-Tang Clan, Mobb Deep, and the Boot Camp Clik collective were in the process of establishing a new category of rap, one that consisted of a rough, dusty sound that would characterize the streets of New York.

Can you already tell that I like this album?

TRACK-BY-TRACK

1. The Natural
 

Mark Sparks lays down a ridiculously chill beat for Mic Geronimo on the album's title track, and Mic rips it. This was just a great way to open up the project, especially considering Mic brings the whole Prodigy vibe immediately. This is one of the best cuts on The Natural, but the fact that the last minute of the song is just a conversation is pretty annoying.

2. Lifecheck
One of two instrumentals by Da Beatminerz on the album, and while it is actually pretty lazy, it manages to be effective. "Lifecheck" certainly sounds like something that could have been on Smif-N-Wessun's album Dah Shinin', and that's always a good thing. Mic Geronimo is able to ride the beat very well, too. No qualms from me about this one.

3. Wherever You Are
Another Mark Sparks beat. I didn't like this song the first time I listened to it, but the smooth production eventually grew on me. Solid track here.

4. Masta I.C.
The first of three Buckwild productions on The Natural knocks, containing an eerie sample and those shakers that I love so much. Also, Mic's performance makes the beat sound that much better. "Masta I.C." was the second single off of the album, and it was a great choice, as it is just an all-around great song, although the hook was pretty corny (yet standard). Mic Geronimo's friend Royal Flush makes an appearance on the track and impresses.

5. Man Of My Own
As soon as the beat hits, you will probably think it was produced by Da Beatminerz, as the ominous horns will bring back memories of Black Moon's Enta Da Stage. However, "Man Of My Own" was actually laced by Chyskillz, and it's pretty damn good. By this point of The Natural, you have most likely realized that Mic Geronimo's delivery is extremely monotonous, but, like Guru's, it works. Also, Royal Flush is here again.

6. Time To Build
This was one of Jay-Z and DMX's first appearances in the rap game, and it was Ja Rule's. "Time To Build" is interesting to listen to for that reason, as DMX's sounds like a kid, and while Jay-Z's voice sounds the same as it does in his prime, his delivery is somewhat different. As far as Ja Rule goes, he is almost unrecognizable. This is the same guy who would go on to make songs like "Always On Time" and "Wonderful"? Anyway, the Irv Gotti beat is very good, and all four rappers make appropriate use of it.

7. Shit's Real
The first single. This was also one of the weaker tracks on the album, as Irv Gotti's instrumental is way too, um, non-confrontational, for Mic. "Shit's Real" ended up sounding very plain.

8. Three Stories High
The second Buckwild production on The Natural reminds one of DJ Premier's "Come Clean" beat that he did for Jeru The Damaja, as one can audibly hear the sound of a dripping faucet (or something of that nature) in the background. Royal Flush is once again and featured and holds his own, and Mic sounds right at home. Solid cut.

9. Sharane
This Mark Sparks-produced song is just phenomenal in all aspects. Sparks' beat is incredible, as the drums couldn't be any more perfect, and Mic Geronimo engages in some outstanding storytelling about a female who ends up setting him up. Probably my favorite track on the project.

10. Men vs. Many
The second and final Beatminerz beat on the album is the better of the two productions, as the instrumental on "Men vs. Many" will likely throw you into a trance. Royal Flush once again joins Mic here, and O.C. does, as well. Regardless, you will find yourself far too mesmerized by the beat to pay any attention to how well the three rappers performed.

11. Train Of Thought
Buckwild's last beat on The Natural happens to be his best one on the record. Yes; even better than "Masta I.C.". The drums knock, and the dark sample gives "Train Of Thought" street authenticity. It helps that Mic Geronimo absolutely tears this to shreds, too.

12. Things Change
Aside from "Wherever You Are," Mark Sparks really brought it on this album, as his instrumental on this cut is very effective (love those kick drums). Mic and his boy Royal Flush seamlessly flow over the beat, making "Things Change" one of the more relaxing tracks on The Natural. The R&B hook is somewhat cheesy, but other than that, there isn't much not to like about this song.

13. Masta I.C. (Remix)
The remix, produced by Irv Gotti, is certainly a head-nodder, and The Lost Boyz and (surprise, surprise) Royal Flush accompany Mic Geronimo on the cut. It's not as good as the original, but the menacing guitar strums that Gotti throws on the beat add a nice element. It doesn't help matters much that this cut is six minutes in length, though.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Natural is definitely one of the most underrated gems in hip-hop history. Due to the fact that it was released during a time when rappers such as Nas, The Notorious B.I.G., Mobb Deep, and The Wu-Tang Clan were bursting onto the scene, it's easy to see why it got overlooked, but that obviously doesn't make it right, as this album is just plain great.

Yes, the production may become repetitive at points, but, as I know I've stated many times on this blog, if it's working, why stray away from it? The slow, dark instrumentals clearly suited Mic Geronimo, and the fact that most of the beats sounded very similar to one another gave The Natural a sense of direction and cohesion, something that too many hip-hop albums are missing these days.

It is also clear that Mic is a very gifted emcee who can consistently bring it, and he parallels Prodigy so much it's not even funny, making him a very enjoyable listen for huge Mobb Deep fans like myself. As I pointed out earlier, his delivery is very monotonous, but not so much as to steer your attention elsewhere. He is able to utilize that monotony and make it so that he sounds unique rather than boring.

I am going to take a guess and say that the good majority of you readers (how many of you there actually are) have not heard this album, so heed my advice: don't waste any more time; listen to it. It is a very steady listen throughout, and at its conclusion, you will be wondering why Mic Geronimo was never really heard from again outside of the sophomore album he dropped (Vendetta) in 1997.

TOP FIVE TRACKS

1. Sharane
2. The Natural
3. Train Of Thought
4. Masta I.C.
5. Men vs. Many

2 comments:

  1. I had also never heard of Mic but i gave it a listen after reading your glowing review and I liked it. Laid back, dark, hardcore street rap...elements mostly missing from today's "artists." I loved the opening track. Good stuff mane, respect

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  2. Great reviews and ashamed i just found these reviews. I can remember being a kid trying to find this cassette tape and never having luck lol. The beats & flow of Mic and flush i love and just wanted to give my props to you and everyone on this CD

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